Middle-grade readers should respond to this tender story of learning to connect with others through open eyes and an open...

Tragedy strikes on Mandy’s 13th birthday when her father is struck by a drunk driver and killed. Now grief—both her own and her mother’s—complicates the already confusing landscape of early adolescence.

With her mother working more and more hours in the wake of her father’s death, Mandy begins spending most of her time living with her grandmother. Often the target of bullies, loner Mandy approaches Paloma to be her partner for a school project. Paloma is also a misfit, but she carries herself with a self-assured grace that Mandy finds compelling. As she becomes closer to Paloma, she learns about the practices of yoga and meditation, which are foundational in Paloma’s family. An overweight boy in class, Rogelio, is also touched by tragedy when his family’s home burns down, and Paloma invites him to join their yoga crew. As the three continue practicing together, they each begin to cultivate their own peace amid the chaos in their lives. Though each faces personal challenges, they find friendship and support in one another. Bernal has succeeded in crafting a story that acknowledges tragedy without wallowing in it, placing her emphasis on resilience and personal growth. The quick pace and distinctive characters make for a smooth, well-crafted read.

Middle-grade readers should respond to this tender story of learning to connect with others through open eyes and an open heart. (Fiction. 10-13)

Pub Date: May 31, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-55885-783-4

Page Count: 162

Publisher: Piñata Books/Arte Público

Review Posted Online: March 30, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2014


Basing her novel on a one-page story written by an 11-year-old child shortly before her death from leukemia, Bennett (Life in the Fat Lane, 1998, etc.) creates a tale of courage personified. A herd of miniature zebras appears before Becky Zaslow on the day she is diagnosed with childhood cancer—leukemia. During times of painful treatment, the zebras take Becky away to Africa and the Serengeti where they fight off tough predators, cross the treacherous crocodile-filled Mara River, and tell tales about Zink, a mythological polka-dotted zebra. Becky’s secret journal outlines the course of each treatment and is interspersed with the tale of these playful zebras; they help her to remain courageous despite her fears. The zebras, not medical professionals, prepare Becky for death when her bone marrow transplant fails and she succumbs to a respiratory infection. As one of the zebras, Ice Z, tells her, “True courage is admitting we’re afraid and fighting the predators anyway.” After her death, Becky, as Zink, joins the zebra herd. With three pages of acknowledgments and a lengthy afterword, readers may gain more than they need to know about the true aspects of this poignant story, but the embellishments don’t interfere with the raw emotions explored, or the power of Becky’s journey as she learns to run with the herd. (glossary) (Fiction 11-13)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-385-32669-6

Page Count: 222

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1999


Raisa's sister, Henda, has earned enough money to send for Raisa to join her in the goldineh medina of America. When Raisa arrives in 1910 New York from her Polish shtetl, she finds Henda missing. Responsible for supporting both herself and a newly orphaned toddler, Raisa finds a job at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory. Raisa's friends, described in language rich with the cadences of Yiddish, each have jealousies, loves and flaws; they're not mere trajectories toward tragedy. But tragedy does strike, with the real-life factory fire that killed 146 workers. Vivid description of the deaths—of workers trapped on higher floors or leaping from windows to choose a faster death—unavoidably invites comparisons with another, more recent tragedy. The comparison serves the novel well; when the prose isn't strong enough for sufficient horror, visceral memories of 9/11 will do the trick (at least for those readers old enough to remember). After some tear-jerking, the happy conclusion comes too suddenly—shockingly so. The journey, however, is satisfying enough on its own. (Historical fiction. 11-13)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-670-01245-9

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Sept. 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2010

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